Gaza-based terrorists believed to be from Islamic Jihad triggered the latest round of escalation in the South. They fired an antitank missile at an IDF jeep conducting a routine patrol on Saturday on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza Strip near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. One of the four Givati Brigade soldiers riding in the jeep was wounded seriously.

Since this unprovoked attack, well over a hundred mortar shells and rockets have been fired at civilian centers in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne, Netivot, Sderot and elsewhere in the South. Hundreds of thousands of residents – men, women and children – live in constant fear of being struck down by a rocket or a mortar shell.

This is not the first time terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza have launched attacks purposely targeting Israeli civilians. Residents of the South are no strangers to mortar shells and Kassam and Grad rockets fired from neighboring Gaza. Since the beginning of the year about 1,000 rockets have been fired at cities and towns in the South.

However, the latest round of escalation has convinced many – including senior members of the present government and the military establishment – that Israel must restore deterrence by ratcheting up its response to Palestinian belligerence.

The State of Israel – like any other sovereign state – has a moral obligation to protect its citizens from terrorist aggression. In fact, the responsibility to protect – or R2P – happens to be a 2005 UN initiative adopted in the wake of the massacres in Rwanda and based on the principle that sovereignty is not just a right it is a responsibility. If Israel fails to do everything in its power to provide residents in the South with protection from radical Islam-inspired terrorism, it is behaving negligently. The international community would then have an obligation to step in to ensure that Israelis are provided with protection from terrorists operating in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Unfortunately, too many in the international community not only do nothing to stop terrorists operating in Gaza from targeting innocent Israeli civilians, they also refuse to recognize Israel’s basic right to protect its citizens. Israel’s legitimate military operations – launched to fight back at terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza – are spuriously portrayed as acts of unprovoked aggression. An egregious example of this tendency in international forums to morally delegitimize Israel’s right to self-defense is the Goldstone Report. Richard Goldstone and the other members of the fact-finding mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council after Operation Cast Lead baselessly accused Israel’s military of intentionally targeting Palestinian civilians in Gaza Strip. Months after the report was published and the damage to Israel’s image was done, Goldstone – in an op-ed that appeared in The Washington Post – admitted that “civilians were not intentionally targeted [by Israel] as a matter of policy.” Israel does everything in its power – including employing the most advanced technologies – to prevent civilian deaths in Gaza. But when Hamas and other terrorist organizations purposely disguise themselves as civilians, position themselves and their arms in population centers and use civilians as human shields, civilians are liable to be injured or killed. Too often these unfortunate and unintentional deaths are falsely portrayed as “war crimes,” not just by Hamas and other terrorist organization but also by purportedly “objective” human rights NGOs and UN-appointed bodies like the Goldstone fact-finding mission.

Israel might be on the brink of launching another military operation in Gaza aimed at restoring deterrence and protecting the residents of the South from the terrorists of Gaza. Before such an operation is launched – if it is launched at all – Israel should make an effort to explain itself to the international community.

World opinion might be stacked against Israel, but we must not give up hope.

Those in the international community with a modicum of intellectual honesty will acknowledge that if the Palestinians living in Gaza were to abandon violence and reconcile themselves to Israel’s existence, then the conflict would end immediately.

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